A military dad returning from deployment recently dressed up as a referee to surprise his kids at a high school football game, USA Today reported.
According to the New Haven Register, Joe Egersheim, a master sergeant in the United States Army Reserve, just returned from a tour in Kuwait that kept him away from home for about a year. When he and his wife discovered he would be home earlier than anticipated, they orchestrated a surprise for two of their kids, Cole and Olivia. Cole is a member of the school’s football team and Olivia is a cheerleader.
Before Friday’s game, Joe Egersheim put on a referee costume and walked onto the field for the coin toss.
"I was nervous about it," Egersheim told the New Haven Register. "I’d never done anything like this before in my life. I had a thousand things going through my mind and I didn’t know how [Cole] would react.”
Cole was asked to join the coin toss with members of his team. Shortly after, he realized the referee was his father, and he hugged him. As announcers explained who the referee was, Olivia ran out onto the field to join the embrace.
What gave it away?
Although Joe Egersheim tried to hide his true identity as long as he could, he and his son both told the New Haven Register his distinctive laugh gave him away.
"What’s funny is when I got out there, I turned and faced the head referee so [Cole] still didn’t realize it was me until the announcer mentioned we had a guest referee,” Joe Egersheim said.
“That’s when I turned around and started laughing. I guess they say I have a funny, recognizable laugh. That’s when he knew."
Cole said he heard his dad “using his little snicker — ‘Heh heh heh.’"
"So I was like, ‘That’s him. Dang,’" he said.
Cole called the experience “surreal.”
"I missed him so much,” he said. “It was crazy. I hadn’t seen him in so long it was nice to finally get to talk to him. It made me want to have a better game, made me want to play better."
Joe Egersheim said the reunion was "the highlight of my life."
"Besides having my kids, it was the highlight of my life," he said.
(H/T: Inside Edition)